From Brazil comes a lovely animated film, Tainá-Kan, a grande estrela, based on a Karajá Indian legend. It is about two sisters, Imaerô, who is selfish, and Denakè, whose nature is more ambiguous and elusive. Imaerô wishes upon her favorite star for it to come to Earth as a man so she can marry him. But when he complies and arrives, he is (in her eyes) “old and ugly,” and she is revulsed. Denakè suddenly appears upon her sister’s retreat, suggesting they are opposite aspects of a single nature or character, and entreats Tainá-Kan to remain so she can take care of him. Plainly, she is principally motivated by her wish to cast her sister in a bad starlight; she quips that she already knew that stars are ancient.
Writer-director Adriana Figueiredo keeps to the competitive sister-thing, for now that he and Denakè are a couple Imaerô sees Tainá-Kan as young and handsome. Tainá-Kan provides his wife’s people with a plantation of new vegetables and fruits, including corn and watermelon, that will keep them well fed; he takes stars from the heavens that become seeds for growing the crops. Ultimately he leaves Earth to return to the heavens with wife and children, who sparkle in a new constellation.
Those who wish to reduce this story to a simple fable perhaps miss the point of Tainá-Kan’s own motive for coming down: to be flattered up close by Imaerô’s idolatrous attention. Hers was a show of affection and commitment, not the reality; similarly, her sister delivered a show of unselfish love, to which Tainá-Kan responded. But even such a display of generosity, whatever the motivation, yields greater generosity, because the mimicry of good behavior increases good behavior. Motives are less important than what people do.
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